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Monday, 03 May 2010 14:15

Broadway Review: PROMISES, PROMISES

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Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises
Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises
Photo: Joan Marcus

A revival of the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon has just landed on Broadway for the first time since the original. The musical is based on the screenplay for the film "The Apartment," an Academy Award winning film by Billy Wilder. This time around it stars Sean Hayes (of "Will & Grace" fame) in the role of Chuck. This role was originated in '68 by Jerry Orbach. Hayes is delightful as the bachelor working his way up the corporate ladder at a large insurance company. I'm pleased to see that he has left Jack behind him yet retained his terrific sense of comedic timing. In leaving Jack behind it's almost like he underplays the role to accomplish that. He has a pleasant and serviceable voice but would never be confused for a singer. His asides to the audience are one of the funniest things in the show.

Hayes' co-star is the lovely and talented Kristin Chenoweth as Fran, a waitress in his corporate cafeteria. Unfortunately, Ms. Chenoweth got her bright, perky, bigger than life self cast in the role of a timid woman who is being walked all over as the other woman. Ms. Chenoweth's voice alone belies the downtrodden Fran. And as many have already pointed out (not that it has anything to do with her performance), she is made up to bear a striking resemblance to the former Mrs. Burt Bacharach, Angie Dickinson.

Chuck has realized there is a shortcut to promotion in his company. Unfortunately this involves his lending out his bachelor pad on the upper-west side of Manhattan to the boys from the office who want a little something on the side. This gets out of hand when he realizes that the girl he is after, Fran is sleeping with his boss, J.D. Sheldrake played by Tony Goldwin. Goldwin does a fine job with an otherwise bland role.

Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises
Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises
Photo: Joan Marcus

The scenery by Scott Pask is attractive and at times minimal on the huge stage of the Broadway Theatre. This frequently gives director Rob Ashford plenty of playing space, unfortunately too much. It strikes me that this musical might play better in a more intimate theatre like the Helen Hayes. Scott Pask's twin brother Bruce Pask has designed some lovely costumes for this show.

Unfortunately, Burt Bacharach's music (music I loved while growing up) feels like background music here. Songs you remember and liked such as "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Promises, Promises" go by in the blink of an eye and blend in with less familiar Bacharach/David songs. The chorus does a wonderful job with "Turkey Lurkey Time" but that number feels like it just wafted out of a time capsule, bottom line, it's hokey. Two songs not in the original production have found there way into this production and are sung by Ms. Chenoweth, "I Say a Little Prayer" and "A House is Not a Home." Interesting coincidence, just last week Chenoweth sang "A House is Not a Home" with Matthew Morrison on the television show "Glee."

At the top of the second act we find Chuck wallowing drunk in self pity in a bar. There he meets Marge, played with over-the-top gusto by Katie Finneran. Finneran does a mean owl impersonation and she and Hayes have a delicious time together. The beloved Dick Latessa holds his own as Dr. Dreyfus, the doctor next-door who continually thinks it is Chuck who is having all this raucous whoopee.

While I really wanted to love this, I felt let down by the piece itself. There's not much of anything the producers or director could have done about that, short of picking another show. Mr. Hayes is a talented man. My hope is that we will get to see him in more Broadway outings (no double-entrende implied).

Last modified on Thursday, 02 September 2010 23:25